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Visitors explored the towering Aon Center with breathtaking views downtown during Open House Chicago on Saturday, October 17, 2015.
Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

An external glass elevator could be part of the Aon Center’s new observatory

Zach Long

You can stand above the city in a glass box at the Willis Tower Skydeck and take a peek over the edge of a building at 360 Chicago’s Tilt attraction, but the forthcoming observatory at the Aon Center could offer an even more thrilling way to view the urban sprawl. The Chicago Tribune reports that the owners of the Aon Center are considering installing a “glass-sheathed elevator tower” on the side of the building that would transport visitors to a new observation deck that is being built on the 83rd floor.

According to the Tribune, the exterior elevator is necessary because there is no room to install an additional elevator shaft in the Aon Center—something that will be necessary to minimize disruption for the building’s tenants. The 1,000-foot elevator structure would be placed at the building’s northwest corner (at Lake Street and Stetson Avenue), hiding it from the view of people in Millennium Park. The elevator could offer views of Michigan Avenue, the Chicago River and prominent buildings such as the Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower.

The owners of the Aon Center will need to have their plans approved before construction on the elevator structure begins. The Tribune notes that the city has asked the architects to get feedback about the proposal from “preservation experts, top Chicago architects and nearby residents.” If there’s significant opposition to the plan, the owners may need to go back to the drawing board and figure out an alternative route for visitors to make their way up to the observatory—one that may not offer the thrilling views of the proposed external elevator.

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